January 09, 2009

Review: The Shack

The Shack
by William P. Young

I warn you up front that there was spoilers so if you want to read this book without any knowledge of where it's going then stop reading this review now.

A few weeks ago my mother was reading The Shack while on the road to her vacation. As she finished the book and absorbed its meaning her car was sideswiped, sending it spinning into oncoming traffic and landing it on its side. Thankfully no one was hurt. In fact, mom continued with her vacation plans and told me about the car accident the next day as she walked through the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. But she will never forget this book and told me that I had to read it. Apparently reading the book and then getting in a car wreck was giving her the chills. So I read it over New Year's.

The Shack is apparently the true story of Mack as retold by his friend Willie, the author. Mack was the church going husband and father of five. When his youngest daughter was kidnapped and murdered his faith is left on shaky ground. Three years after the death of his daughter Mack receives a letter in the mail to go to the shack where his daughter was murdered, signed by Papa, the affectionate name his wife refers to God as. So Mack goes to meet God, thinking he is likely insane. What takes place over the next three days changes his life forever, as an encounter with God would. But the part of the book that most stuck with Mom was that at the end of the weekend, as Mack is driving home to tell his family what has happened, he is in a terrible car accident. He survives but people now doubt his story because the car accident took place on Friday, before he spent the entire weekend with God.

First I will say that I was greatly moved by this story and close to tears at several points. It is an inspiring tale and a well laid out one. Knowing ahead of time that Mack is a real person and that he truly believes this to be his experience is a literary device that works here. I enjoyed reading it a lot.

But...

the theology is so messed up I don't know where to begin. According to this book rules and institutions (like church) are an evil device used by men to make themselves feel powerful and in control and have nothing to do with God. The problem with this idea is that it has to ignore all of the Old Testament and a large portion of the New Testament to get there. If you believe, as I do, that the Bible is the living word of God then you cannot find yourself in the theology of The Shack. If we throw out the Bible as an authority on God then we are left with nothing to determine about God but whatever we feel like at the time. If you have ever made a bad decision based on how you felt at the time then you will know why this way of thinking is wrong and possibly dangerous.

I must be careful here. I am not saying that Mack did not actually have this experience; he believes it and it thoroughly changed his life, that's for sure. But I do not believe that God is anything that Mack's experience says he is. Jesus is all the prophet I need and his account is much different than Mack's.

That is all the theology I will hit you with. Let me just say, if you are reading this as a guide to tell you who God is and how he wants you to live then you should choose a different book. Try the Bible. Or Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. But if you are looking for a moving and well written story where redemption and forgiveness are the main point then go for it. Just be sure to keep the tissues close.

Buy this book at Amazon.

6 comments:

Kristina said...

What a fantastic review!! I read this one as well and I couldn't agree with you more. You said it perfectly. I think if you read this as a writing of fiction...it's wonderful. But if you want reference material, you're right, look somewhere else. Great review!

bermudaonion said...

I know there is a lot of controversy surrounding this book. When I was standing in line to vote a woman in front of me was reading it and a woman behind me started in on her about it.

Petunia said...

Kristina-Thanks. It's always nice to get an affirmation.

bermudaonion-I can understand why there would be controversy but really, it's just a book. No reason to get your panties in a jumble.

Anonymous said...

Just one clarification, The Shack is not a "true story". The entire story is fiction. The author, Paul Young, uses the literary device called, "unreliable narrator" to intentionally confuse the reader. Mack is confused about the event that took place in the shack in light of his own car accident Friday night. You, the reader are supposed to be confused, and make up your own mind as to when the event took place.

Genevieve said...

I just finished reading the Shack and I was disappointed to find out it was not really based on a true story (I read the author's forum where he explains that Mack and his family are fictional characters). I was touched by the events and the process of transformation Mack underwent. But I'm not sure I would have been as touched had I known it was purely fiction. I question the use of this literary device. I feel that I have been tricked, as a reader. I will not be recommending this book to anyone, because of that.

tracysbooknook.com said...

I have to say that "The Shack" by William P. Young was a very thought provoking read.

After reading the book, I was left pondering several things about it – which is a true testament to the book's worth. I had several questions on the validity of some of the descriptions of God but I had to humbly admit that there may be no answers this side of heaven for how God presents Himself to each individual.

I posted a more in-depth review of this book on my own blog www.tracysbooknook.com.

-Tracy